One last hurrah for Jordan as Fisichella sings in the rain in Brazil

The 2003 Brazilian Grand Prix was one of the most chaotic Formula 1 races ever, with the winner only confirmed five days following the event


Few have characterised the rebellious nature of Formula 1’s independent teams better than Irishman Eddie Jordan.

Jordan turned business owner built up a successful feeder series empire helping the likes of Jean Alesi and Eddie Irvine graduate to F1.

In 1991, Jordan moved up to F1 with the superb 191 machine, which finished fifth in the constructors’ championship and propelled Michael Schumacher to stardom after an excellent debut at Spa.

But Jordan learned the hard way about the piranha club mentality of F1 when Benetton poached Schumacher just days after Belgium with the move, setting the team back as it struggled for results.

The team finally won its first race in the frantic 1998 Belgium Grand Prix, with Damon Hill leading home Ralf Schumacher in a famous 1-2.

1999 was even better as Heinz Harald Frentzen almost won the world championship taking wins in France and Italy but coming up just short following a heartbreaking retirement when leading in the Nurburgring.

Frentzen’s fairytale run was ancient history by 2003 as Jordan now focused on F1 survival rather than wins, losing sponsors and tumbling down the constructors’ table.

But on one soggy day in Sao Paulo, fortunes suddenly changed as Jordan and Giancarlo Fisichella sang to victory in the rain.

A gloomy start keeps expectations low

The start of the 2003 campaign hadn’t been kind to Fisichella and his new teammate Ralph Firman failing to score a point in the first two races, with the former failing to reach the checkered flag.

Round three in Brazil would mark Jordan’s 200th GP, but after a rain-disrupted qualifying session, both cars were languishing outside of the top ten, Fisichella 14th and Firman 18th.

Saturday’s session was dry, and Fisichella finally made progress, jumping up to eighth, his first top-ten starting position of the season as former Jordan driver Rubens Barrichello took pole for Ferrari.

Firman didn’t make much progress, qualifying 16th, over a second down on Fisichella’s best time.

Rain delays play

The start of the 2003 Brazilian Grand Prix | Scuderia Ferrari

On race day, the Interlagos circuit became saturated when a rainstorm hit just three hours before the scheduled start time, forcing Charlie Whiting to delay proceedings by 15 minutes.

Due to standing water on the track, the race started behind the safety car with Barrichello and co crawling around before Whiting gave the all clear to start racing.

On Lap 7, Fisichella pitted for fresh tyres and a tank of fuel to take him to the checkered flag, with Firman also stopping as David Coulthard jumped Barrichello to take the lead on Lap 8.

By Lap 10, cars were already spinning off the track, with Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli becoming the first pair to face the wrong way at Turn 3.

Carnage opens the door for Jordan as Firman bows out

The start of the 2003 Brazilian Grand Prix | Scuderia Ferrari

As the race settled down, Justin Wilson spun off into retirement on Lap 15, followed by Firman, who suffered a hair-raising moment when his suspension broke on the run down to Turn 1.

Firman unintentionally rear-ended Olivier Panis Toyota out of the race bringing the safety car back into action on Lap 17, giving Coulthard and Michael Schumacher a chance to stop for tyres and fuel.

When the debris was finally cleared on Lap 22, more carnage followed as Antonio Pizzionia and Juan Pablo Montoya aquaplaned off the road Turn 3, two laps later, with Michael Schumacher next off into retirement.

Naturally, the safety car was brought out to clear up the wreckage, and when the race resumed, Fisichella was into the top eight and in hot pursuit of Minardi’s Jos Verstappen as half distance approached.

Fisichella edges closer before rain stops action, and chaos reigns

Verstappen’s good run wouldn’t last long as the Dutchman would spin out on Lap 30 with Jenson Button’s shunt two laps later, bringing out another safety car.

By the time of the third restart, Fisichella had moved into sixth and looking good for points as Barrichello looked on course for an emotional home win.

However, it would be heartbreak rather than ecstasy for Barrichello as a fuel feed issue caused his Ferrari to run dry, promoting Fisichella into the podium positions before moving into second as Coulthard stopped.

Now Fisichella closed in on Kimi Raikkonen. When the Finn went wide at Turn 11, the Italian moved into a surprise lead just as the race was stopped following Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso’s violent crashes.

Who won anyway?

Fisichella had been the leader at the stoppage, and as he drove into parc ferme with his car now resembling an open-air barbecue, it was thought he had won his first GP.

But following a mistake with the live timing Raikkonen was awarded the victory, only for the FIA to realise their mistake five days later, confirming Fisichella as the victor.

It would be the last win for Jordan as the Silverstone-based team was sold to Alex Shnaider’s Midland group in early 2005 before relinquishing the team to Dutch car manufacturer Spyker in late 2006.

The Brazilian heroics were to be Fisichella’s last win until he joined Renault in 2005, adding two more victories before arriving at Force India for the swansong of his F1 career.

Raikkonen wouldn’t win again in 2003, narrowly missing out on the championship by just two points to Schumacher. The Finn would, however, get his world championship in 2007 with Ferrari beating out Lewis Hamilton.

Ed Spencer
Ed Spencer
FIA accredited journalist
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